How to challenge unhealthy power structures in evangelism and humanitarian aid was the undergirding question in the Missiological Forum that was held at the Norwegian School of Theology (MF) last week.
Dr. Azza Karam (to the right) together with chairperson Kåre EriksenJørn Lemvik, Executive Director of Digni, giving his responseNORME (Norwegian Council for Missions and Evangelism), Digni (umbrella organization for faith-based development work of churches and mission societies), and Egede Instituttet (missiological research) co-hosted the seminar on "Power and Partnership", gathering most leaders of mission societies in Norway. An impressive panel of international experts were assembled, together with Norwegian respondents, to deal with the issues.
The international speakers were Dr. Azza Karam, Egyptian born Senior Advisor on Culture at UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), Dr. Genevieve James of University of South Africa, and Rev. Francis Stephanos, former president of Mekane Yesus Church of Ethiopia.
Dr. Azza Karam differentiated between powerful vs forceful partnerships, and elaborated on how the pendulum swings in the world of religion, politics and sustainable human development. She emphasized the need for the UN to work together with religions: -We need knowledge of faith-based organizations because you have an unprecedented ability to be moral mobilizers, and to raise financial resources in the face of crises, she said, citing examples from the religious world of islam, buddhism, catholic and evangelical Christianity.
Dr. Genevieve James spoke with insight on the need to avoid unequal partnerships, and to promote innovation, by the development of knowledge through study programs and research.
Rev. Francis Stephanos emphasized the Biblical approach to partnership in development work: -Southern Churches refuse to comply with Western/Northern demands for conformity with the world and political correctness to receive "aid" from economically wealthy nations. Our growth has never come from moral conformity and theological relativism, he underscored. -"Power" in the Bible is for creation, for caring for humans and the environment. Jesus´ model for power was servanthood, said Stephanos. -When we follow his example, we will never abuse power.